One Last Time

So my time at Central ends this Sunday, and I get to lead worship one last time in Campo Verde tomorrow at 11AM. You should come out and worship God with me one more time :).

My life now isn't the way I would have pictured it fifteen months ago. I thought I would have everything figured out, that I would be headed off to some amazing full-time ministry. Still, I wouldn't trade what I have now for the world.

I met my amazing fiance here, as well as some amazing friends and life lessons I never knew I needed. I now have a full time job and a place to lead worship (desert haven church@ 10:30AM), and I get to still be near my new friends and my fiance. I am getting married in five months, and that is pretty awesome. I love my life, and I love what God has done for me.

So I'm not bitter or angry or sad about leaving. I'm pretty excited about leading one last time for Third Format, and I suppose if there is one hope I have for the future, it is that the friendships I've made at Central would prove to transcend church attendance or distance. I hope that, more often than not, the friendships I've made here are the kind that last for decades.

One more time, come worship God with me tomorrow morning @ 11AM in Campo Verde! It'll be great... and I'd love to see all of you.

Friendship

Two people can do the exact same thing, for two completely different reasons. People are funny like that. Sometimes it's a funny "haha" way, but sometimes it's a funny "sad" way.

Take friendships, for example. I am at an age where I have an equal amount of friends in college and in "the real world" (whatever that means). What I have learned in my post-collegiate days is just how much we take friendships for granted in school, even in college. A precious few friendship make it out of college, and survive distance and divergent paths. Those friendships are based on selfless love of a person... but most friendships in college seem to be the less-selfless love of a person's presence.

There is a subtle but important difference. The more mature friendships grow from genuine connection, from bonds that aren't as much necessitated by school year and class structure. These are the friendships where the friends become like family, and I have been blessed to have quite a few of them throughout the years. The less mature friendships grow from the stimulus provided by some quality in the friend's presence, something about being with them that is pleasurable to you. Certainly there can be an element of this stimulus in those more mature friendships, and these friendships can mature into genuine connections. The key factor in determining one from the other is this:

When you are in a less mature friendship, you are an option. When you are in a mature, genuine relationship, you are like family and made a priority.

The funny "haha" in this whole thing is in the ever-changing status of this circle of friends... the desire for this kind of friendship can cause people to do stupid things en masse, and this is hilarious. The "sad" part of this, however, is that we all yearn for the more mature friendships on some deeper level, but too often we are surprised to find that we are an option and not a priority.

I think the key to dealing with this is to know and expect both types of friendship. I'll befriend, talk to, and even invite out friends who consider me an option, because when they say know it's pretty much expected, and when they say yes it could be a pretty fun time. I'll spend my time with them, but I won't make them a priority. I will make time and focus more on those maturing relationships, because those are the ones that will follow us wherever we go.

Sometimes I feel a bit judgmental for lumping my friendships into these categories, but time and time again my judgments are verified and my heart is guarded from the sophomoric ache of unrequited platonic devotion (a one sided friendship).

See, two friends will come and hang out with me over these next few days. Some of them will walk in, see what fun they can have, or what mutual interest they can serve. They will leave when things feel slow or they feel bored. They are welcomed, be it at a meal, a concert, or simply hanging out after church. There is nothing wrong with that kind of friendship.

The other friend, however, will be there because I am there, because they love me and I love them. I welcome the first friend, but I treasure the second.

I'm 26 today.

I Don't Care

When you are deeply involved in the ministry, you are almost constantly inundated with stories of "church gone wrong". We sing many songs that originated at Hillsong in Australia, and many other songs that are the products of "the industry", songs that have that "Nashville" sound. It seems that at least a few times every year, I hear another "concerned" person trying to convince me that Hillsong or Nashville only cares about the money.

I think I've finally come to my conclusion on this whole matter. I think I have an answer now, when people ask me how I can sing this song, or quote that preacher, or talk favorably about another ministry. It isn't the answer you'd expect, unless you read the title of this post.

You see, what I'm trying to say is, I DON'T CARE!

I don't care what you heard about how rude Nashville people can be, or how their motives are all wrong, or anything else. I don't care what happened with the Hillsong Church, how much money they make on their music, or how shallow their preaching is. For now, I am done with the big picture.

I have one concern when it comes to corporate worship music, and that is the people that God has given me to lead in worship. If a song reaches them where they are at, or inspires them to reach out to others, it was probably written by someone who has that same heart. Even if it wasn't, it is still good and useful for my goals, which are to lead people to find healing and bring healing to others.

This is life; to be the cure for the sickness, the light in the darkness. This is what matters, and from now on it doesn't matter how that happens. I may end up in a church with a money tree out front, pastored by a man with a yacht, and it won't matter as long as healing and hope abound. I could be at a church where the preacher is a political nut, and I may have to run sound for a townhall meeting filled with angry senior citizens, but it won't matter, as long as the Kingdom is at hand.

We Are Homeless

We are a transient generation.

We don't put down roots, perhaps because there is so much less deep soil available. We travel with the winds, barely acknowledging the people around us, the ones we used to know as neighbors and trusted friends. We hang out with people when it is convenient, and are quick to forget them when the winds take us somewhere else.

I feel transient. I feel homeless. I don't think I'm the only one.

I want to put down roots somewhere. I want to live and work and go to church in the same place, for a long time. I want to be someone that can be depended on, to have friends from ten years ago coming over for lunch on the weekends, and to see something God is doing grow over the course of a decade. I am hurt that when things go wrong, our generation can be counted on to turn tail and run. There has to be something more, and that something starts with a home.

We need a home to care about, a solid base to build on. We are not all itinerant workers in the kingdom of God. He wants to establish us, in a neighborhood and a church and a family, with solid connections that are not easily broken.

For now, we all drift along, and I'm beginning to see how truly sad that is. Home is more than a place to lay your head.

Simple Truth

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so...

How does God speak to you? What words does He use?

Have you ever thought you heard God saying "Okay, that was stupid. Why were you such a jerk?"

I am in the process of a revelation. I say "in the process" because this revelation is a process. King David would often beg for mercy and cry out for forgiveness as if it were in short supply, when God's love and mercy are limitless. I am sure he never completely figured it out. That is what makes his songs so amazing, that they are the songs of an imperfect man, the artistic expression of a broken soul, canonized as ultimate Truth because that is the truth of human existence.

Sometimes I think God put the Psalms in the Bible to convey a simple message to our hearts. It's words speak to our souls, and take hold of our spirits with the promise that "it's all gonna be okay."

The revelation that I'm coming to, the simple and profound truth, is that God loves me. He doesn't think I'm a loser, or a failure, or a jerk. He sees me as His child, and He loves me with a perfect and unconditional love. He loves me through thick and thin, through obedience and random acts of stupidity.

It isn't His voice that tells us we are stupid. There is an opponent, an adversary, who would like nothing better than to speak darkness into our lives disguised as light. The word "Satan" actually comes from the Hebrew word for adversary, and this is what that voice is. The voice that speaks to and highlights our every weakness is the voice of one who wishes us harm. This "Devil" wants us to wallow, to give in to who we can't help being.

No, God loves us, and is the one who tells us that we can do more, that what we've done isn't who we were meant to be. His spirit is what spurs us to be bigger than ourselves, and to love with a supernatural love. He has allowed there to be an accuser, and allowed us the choice to love Him or leave Him, but His love cannot be questioned or described. It was an act of love to give us a choice. We can understand the beauty of perfect love because we live in a world of imperfection and longing.

I thought that this God was like my father, and maybe you have the same problem; that voice that doubts your worth as a person. I thought He would be angry or disappointed if I cried, or if I showed any weakness to Him whatsoever. I thought He would point out my flaws and consider me unworthy of His time or attention. All of this will sound dumb to those of you who've never been through some sort of traumatic rejection, but the rest of you...

The rest of you get it. You understand all too well where I'm coming from. You've been in the exact same place, and maybe you still are. You have no problem telling other people about God's love for them... I mean, heck, I sing about it every week, leading hundreds of people to sing a truth that we'll spend our whole lives trying to understand!

This is what I ask of you, if you've read this far. Say this simple sentence, stating it as a simple truth... and let it speak to you. Speak this, out loud, and if you have trouble, say it louder. Say it through your anger, through your tears... let these words pour over whatever threatens to keep them silent. Whisper it, sing it, or scream it at the top of your lungs...

Jesus Loves Me.
Repetition weakens the idea, but not necessarily the truth behind it.

Recent Worship Leading Videos

This is a big post, lots of music. These are from Third Format at Central Christian Church in Gilbert. They are some of my favorite songs, and I had a blast leading them!


"The Second Alive" - originally by Charlie Hall.
Video from November 1


"The Time Has Come" and "Not Ashamed" - originally by Hillsong United
Video from November 8


"The Highest and the Greatest" - Originally by Tim Hughes
"How He Loves" - Originally by John Mark McMillan
Video from November 8


"All Around Me" - Originally by Flyleaf, also covered by David Crowder*Band
"SMS (Shine)" - Originally by David Crowder*Band
Video from November 1


"Starlight" - Originally by Muse (this was an intro song)
Video from October 18


"Uprising" - Originally by Muse (another fun intro song, and as close as I've come to "sticking it to the man")
Video from November 1
Imperfection is the one thing we have in common. Imperfection is universal. Imperfection is a reminder of who we aren't.

How Should We Study God?

I've been thinking lately, about this whole "Creation vs. Evolution" debate, and the broader animosity between Scientists and Theologians. I think we often feel the need to validate one to the other, Science to Theology or Theology to Science, as if we have been tasked with this, and as if we had the ability to accomplish such a validation.

I think there is an inherent flaw in the whole debate, however. Science is concerned with the quantifiable, that which can be recreated and studied. It is concerned with the study of the natural universe, and that is certainly a dauntingly huge subject to comprehend. Science, however, is by very definition unable to viably discuss the "supernatural", and this is a good thing.

See, the study of any God or Deity with the ability to create an entire universe, of which our planet is merely an atom orbiting a molecule inside of a speck floating in the vast expanse of space, would be far too large an undertaking for science. Creation is unquantifiable, and it can't be replicated. There is no possible point of reference to the power of a Creator, because all of creation is within the Creator's realm of possibility, and we can know nothing that is not in that realm of possibility, except for the preposterous things that we attempt to describe in big words to give us the illusion of understanding (string theory, anyone?). Even those things are within our imagination, which is a part of the brain, which is itself simply replicated cells replicating and multiplying and living and dying.

No, Science cannot, and should not, endeavor to understand our Creator, and neither should Theology attempt to finagle its way into the Scientific. Both sides, both groups of people, fancy themselves and their areas of expertise to be far more than they actually are. God, or whatever creative force you choose to believe in, seems to have made this distinction quite apparent, even going so far as to give us the words "Natural" and "Supernatural" to describe the two separate realms. Theology is concerned with the Supernatural, and should not attempt to impose the Supernatural upon the Natural (although living out the Supernatural will in the natural world, for the benefit of the world and the pleasure of the Supernatural, is certainly within the Theological discussion).

Instead, we've been given Art, which is not limited by rules or logic, but merely by available materials, talents, and imagination. As I wrote previously in response to a friendly discussion on Facebook, I think the realm of art, that which is for the most part immeasurable (and at certain times and from certain perspectives seemingly pointless) is a more proper realm to discuss the sum and substance of God. Our creative artistic ability and appreciation is the very meaning of being created "in the Image" of our Creator.

I think Art itself attests to it's necessity in the human experience. This is why so many stories de-humanize certain people groups or alien groups by taking away or severely limiting their ability or desire for the arts. Two examples I can think of are V for Vendetta and the newer Star Trek iterations. In V for Vendetta, V is fighting essentially for England's right to humanity, her people's right to the Arts and to disagreement and all of that which is part of the human experience. In the Star Trek series, the Borg are introduced as a "collective" in which people lose their identity for the benefit of the nearly invincible collective. The show constantly presents humanity and individuality as the one thing that defeats this otherwise overpowering force.

I believe that the Arts are our conduit to God, our best method of understanding our Creator. I believe there is an overlap into Theology, which is the best method for understanding our role and relationship with the Creator. I believe Science should be free from discussions about our Creator, and instead busy itself with this vast and beautiful creation.

Love (In The Pit Of My Stomach)

So, if you are late to the party, I will tell you the awesome news one more time... I'm engaged! (never gets old)

Now, my fiance is from here in Arizona, but I am looking anywhere and everywhere for a worship leading position, either full-time or substantial part-time staff, because this is the thing that God has made me good at, the thing that brings me the most joy, and it would be dumb for me to not at least pursue this as a career. She is completely behind me, and wants me to look everywhere for a position and go wherever that takes me, even though it means we may be apart for five months (from the time my residency at Central ends, until we get married and she follows me out).

This has seemed like a good plan... unenviable, since I knew I'd miss her, but still not too bad. I mean, it's only five months, right?

But love doesn't work like that, apparently. I was looking at someone's 21st birthday pictures up on Facebook, and I realized that I would be missing Kristen's 21st birthday. That made me very, unbearably sad. My stomach started getting tied up in knots, and I came to my blog because I needed to do something to get it out. I love that girl, and I don't want to be apart from her for five months. I get sad when I don't get to see her for a day.

And suddenly I understand a lot more about romantic love, about the longing to be with the person you love. I understand what it means when being apart isn't an easy "option" but a depressing prospect. I feel like I'll be leaving part of myself back here in Arizona if and when I leave. I mean, it is what's best for our future and all that jazz, but those words seem a lot less meaningful when coupled with the word "apart".

It's a privilege to love someone this way, and I know that, but that doesn't make the idea of being apart any less painful. I can't wait until I get to spend the rest of my life with her. I suppose that is a good thing, that I feel the longing of this love in the pit of my stomach.

Simple Things

Why do we like simple things?

Maybe because we've made this world too complicated. Maybe we've lost the joy that came with growing up.

I don't know what it is, but something in side of us makes us grin from ear to ear when we open a brand new box of crayons.

I suppose I could combine this childishness with adult responsibility, and go invest in Crayola or something.

Do you like simple things?

Running From Snowballs in Arizona

The first and only time I saw a significant amount of snow, I had to be shown how to make a snowball. I had to start with something small, something that fit inside of my hand. I then had to roll it around, letting the snow on the ground become part of the snowball. I was surprised at how big it started getting, and eventually it was big enough to become the bottom of a snowman.

I've been pretty stressed lately. My fiance, who is crazy smart when it comes to how people think, told me I was letting things snowball into something I couldn't control. I got the image of one of those big cartoon snowballs that comes careening down a mountain to bury someone. Then I remembered that snowman, and how that big bottom of the snowman started out as something the size of my hand.

I don't think I'm the only person dealing with snowballs these days. There is a lot of uncertainty out there, a lot of unemployment and uncertain futures and self-doubt. We want to be self-sufficient, to say we're just fine, that we can deal with this snowball that started out as something the size of our hand, something we just couldn't let go of.

Except that now, it's bigger than us and threatening to bury us.

In the Psalms, I could hear David dealing with his own snowballs, and constantly reminding himself that God would be his help, that God was bigger than the biggest snowball David could create. I think he did this as much for his own benefit as for the benefit of whoever may have read and sung his songs.

Music is cathartic that way... the melody and harmony and dissonance, they come together to say what words alone couldn't. I wish I could hear the music that went with David's Psalms. I think that music would resonate with all of us who are busy running from snowballs.

As for me, I sometimes feel like I've already been run over by the snowball. I suppose it's time for me and Jesus to grab a couple of shovels, because ultimately, if you are trapped underneath a crapload of snow, sitting and moping won't really help you much. Besides, all that a snowball consists of is a bunch of microscopic flakes of snow, just like most of our own "snowballs" consist of a bunch of little crap that looks much less cool that snowflakes.

Philosophy of Worship Ministry

I was asked to write this during an application process, and it made me think about what my practical goal is as a worship leader. This is what I came up with.

I believe that Worship is a lifestyle, and a constant choosing of God over everything else. As such, I believe that corporate worship has the responsibility to be both a heart’s cry and a challenge, a means and an end. When we embrace the dual nature of worship, both the inward and outward aspects, we can effectively lead a congregation in a corporate worship service that helps every type of person move closer to God.

I think it is easiest to think of corporate worship as the heart’s cry of the believer, and that many people stop at this point and try to minister to only this group. However, I believe that when we minister especially to the personal experience of these people, we are actually being detrimental to their spiritual growth. There are many “me and Jesus” songs that leave out the key part of the equation, the love for others that Jesus puts on equal ground with love for God (because it is the natural result of love for God). I believe when you spend time in “adoration”, it should always be with one eye open toward the Jesus that may be begging for food or crying out for love.

Therefore, the aim of worship should be to cause movement. This accomplishes two goals, one for both the believer and the non-believer. Toward the believer, this aim is beneficial in reinforcing discipleship lessons and providing fresh inspiration to live the life of a disciple. Toward the non-believer, this aim reflects the purpose of Christianity and shows what the church values. Non-believers have trouble relating to traditional church when it becomes about the business of running itself. A community of believers is valuable, to be sure, but that community should not be insular.

In practice, the planning of Worship services should take the approach of Paul, who saw God in everything good. Everything that can be used to magnify God is within the worship artist’s scope. It is the responsibility of the artist to use the different media and gifts available to him, in the most culturally coherent way possible, in order to achieve the aims of the ministry. It is important for there to be coherence in the message of each service, from the speaking to the music and other creative elements. It is also important for this coherent message to be consistent with the ultimate aims and direction of the church.

As far as this relates to Music specifically, the worship leader should realize the power of music. God created us in such a way that a powerful chord progression, combined with a certain melody, can drive the right lyric straight to the heart of the listener. We must learn the musical language that speaks to the hearts of those we are ministering to. In some places this may be R&B, Hip-Hop, Modern Rock, Pop, or Indie Rock/Folk, and if you are not gifted in that place’s form of music, you should take that into account before taking on the responsibility of leading worship in that place. For example, my strengths are the Indie Rock and Modern Rock sounds, and I am versatile enough to play some Pop and some hymns. However, when I’ve tried to lead gospel tunes in the past, I’ve been less than stellar, and I know I would not be the best to reach people who are touched by that sort of music.

When we’ve begun speaking to the hearts of our congregation, worship leaders must then supplement the music with whatever other media is available to them, as discussed previously. We must always be sensitive to which forms of art will resonate with those under our leadership, and strive to weave those into the worship services seamlessly and, once again, coherently. We can’t force a certain creative element simply because it is available to us, or because we want this or that artist to be satisfied. We must have that one coherent aim that we stick to and strive for.

Finally, we must be practicing what we preach. A coherent, outwardly focused message can be undermined by an immoral or simply selfish lifestyle. Us “on-stage” people, who are seen and known by the congregation, have the special opportunity to make the message a reality through their service.

Mercy (Catherine Rohr)

How hard is it for us to have mercy on someone?

Well, it's fairly easy when their actions don't directly affect us.

It's also easy when their talent is more apparent than their shortcomings.

It's hard, though, when we've emotionally attached ourselves to something.

When a redemption story goes wrong... when a hero falls from great heights... when someone who is an advocate for something we believe in does something unthinkable, something...

...human.

Catherine Rohr was an advocate for those no one else cared for. Catherine Rohr was a hero, someone to look up to and learn from and admire. Catherine Rohr recently did something unbearably human. In the midst of the incredible pain of divorce, she sought comfort in those who had been helped by her "Prison Entrepreneurship Program" in Texas prisons. Now, bear in mind that these were former inmates, men who had gotten their lives on the right track through hard work, who had paid their debt to society. Still... she had "inappropriate relationships" with the four men, and is no longer allowed to work in the program she spearheaded.

So how is the church going to react? Will the Willow Creek Association stand behind her and help her find healing, or have they gotten all they need out of her? Will all of those who attended the Leadership Summit speak of her as some sort of villian, another in a long line of disappointments? This woman ultimately gave up her marriage for the good of others (and we don't know anything about that situation)... she was feeling alone and abandoned and confused, and she looked for comfort.

Will we have mercy on her? I am not a big leader in the church. I am not some sort of theologian or philosopher, and I don't have a Doctorate in Ministry from some well-respected ministry. I am not one who will shape public perception. So all I can do is pray.

Pray that we have mercy on Catherine Rohr.

Pray that we stand with her as she struggles to find healing and closure.

Pray that one day she can use her considerable talents to once again do amazing things for God.

And finally, pray that God will forgive me for my own lack of mercy in the past, for the time when I stood with the rest in judgment of a fallen brother.

Hey, wait for me!

On my way to work today, I looked to my left and saw a city bus at it's stop. As I turned right, I saw a tiny asian lady running frantically towards the bus, and still maybe 100 yards away. I was thinking "she'll never make it", and I looked in my rear-view, expecting the bus to drive off and the lady to be left in a frazzled mess of bags and disappointment.

But then, something unexpected happened. The bus didn't move. The lady began moving even faster, as she realized that the bus was going to wait. You could almost see the hope in every step... although she was still quite frantic.

Now, while all of this was happening, "How He Loves" was loudly resonating inside my car. You can't listen to that song and drive without being amazed at how He loves each and every person you see. I started thinking about how it feels when someone waits for you... how being waited for makes you feel wanted, and special, and loved.

God waited for me. He waited through my yelling and my anger and my cursing the idea of being up early on a Sunday Morning. He waited for me to get past the problems that followed me wherever I went, to see past my broken world to the one who could fix it. He waited because He loved me, because He knew that more than anything, I needed Him to take on what life had thrown at me. He loved me, fathered me, and gave me an identity.

But how many times do we get impatient with Him, and run off to do our own thing? We are like children, thinking that our parents are moving too slow, running forward toward something that looks super cool, and suddenly realizing that we are lost, crying out to be found. A few things begin to hurt us (shape us, grow us), and we want to throw in the towel and condemn God for abandoning us. We suck at waiting.

Still, He loves us. He waits for us, because He's seen this before. He knows that we will learn, that one day we will thank Him for how He used that dark night to shape us. He knows that soon we will come to the end of ourselves, come to our senses, and come running back into His arms. He knows this, because we are His children and His creation, and He is our Savior and Creator and Father.

So He's still waiting, and it's not a sign of weakness. Impatience is weakness. Patience is strength, and His strength is limitless. So is His love. Are you the one He's waiting for?

Don't take more than you can carry...

In Exodus, the Israelites were fed manna (which literally meant "what is it?"... thanks Don Sailer!), and told to only collect enough for that day. But instead, they would try to collect for the next day as well, so they didn't have to go out every day. They did the exact opposite of what God told them to do, because they were lazy and impatient, and the manna turned into maggots the next day. It was stinky and gross.

I think debt is the maggot of our day. See, God promises to provide what we need for the day, "our daily bread", and that should be enough for us. Often, however, it just isn't, and we feel the need to buy more stuff than we can afford. We get into debt, paying for the toys of today with our futures. I know a lot about that. I got into quite a bit of debt when I was younger and am still paying for it today. The funny thing is, I've got pretty much nothing to show for it.

"Don't spend what you don't have."

It seems like such a simple principle, and for most of history it was the only honorable way to live. Debts unpaid would mean time in prison, or in servitude. It was disgraceful to live in debt.

But now, it's almost considered disgraceful to not have credit. Our culture is one that tries to gather more than we can carry, and that leads to burdens we can't lift on our own, burdens we weren't meant to have. When we can't carry them, someone else has to... and that's how the economy was destroyed, but that's another subject.

The point to this is, we must trust in God to provide us with what we need, and trust that what we are provided with is enough and that we do not "need" more. This is really, really hard to do when it seems like your "daily bread" is way smaller than your appetite, but God knows exactly what He's doing. When you diet, your stomach gets smaller as it gets used to less food, and perhaps our appetites for shiny new things would also get smaller if we'd just get on a budget.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't save money, because that is more of a stewardship issue. We are told to handle our money wisely. No, this is about stuff... and how we need less of it. In fact, if we'd just save and not spend every last "extra" dollar we have, we may be able to buy something pretty sweet when it's all said and done...or maybe even change the world.

Perception

To those who see me lead worship at Central or at Desert Haven, I am a worship leader. To the ones who only come to Central once in a while, I am the guy who sings or plays bass/electric guitar/keyboard. To those looking for the best service out there, the "consumer" Christians here to check out the service, I am either an asset or a detriment... depending on their preference in musical styles and how well I "performed" that day.

My residency ends in less than three months. To the churches I am sending resumes to, I am merely a list of facts, a History major trying to pass himself off as a worship leader. Too little experience. Too little classical education. I couldn't possibly be who they need. There are dozens of churches (and it may get into the hundreds) who will miss out on a passionate, creative, and competent worship leader, simply because they can't get past a list of requirements and their interpretation of the arbitrary facts on a resume. This isn't pride, it's me coming to terms with who I am and where God has gifted me.

This post is more personal than normal, and I apologize if that makes you uncomfortable. There are two points to this post, and the first is this: You always need to remember who you are, where God has given you strength and where He has given you help in your weakness. It's easy to get discouraged, to let your surroundings or constant rejections and slights weigh heavy on your shoulders and cause you to stumble. Don't take that easy, painful road. If you are going to go through pain, let it be from the friction of your passion, calling, and hard work leading you past the threshold of what should be possible.

The second point of this post is that when you are a slave to your own perceptions, you miss very important realities.

P.S. To those of you who would like to help change the way people "perceive" you, social networking sites are important tools in this process. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let's work on changing perceptions.

My Own Worst Enemy (or, Why I Need A Robot)

Sometimes I think I could do a lot more with this life if it weren’t for the fact that I was the one living it.

Confused yet?

What I mean is that I get in my own way a lot. I want to live this life of meaning and purpose and love and grace, and be this amazing worship leader and servant and fiancé and friend. I want to live a life bigger than myself, a life that glorifies God in every action and thought, but I try to do it on my own...

...and it's impossible to consistently live for God, without God.

But it wouldn't be so impossible if I HAD A ROBOT!

See, I've come to the realization that most of my screw-ups are due to my own emotional crap. So if I had a robot, that was programmed to do the things I know are right, without the constraints of emotions or insecurities, I'd be much more successful.

I always hate the parts of movies where the constraints of humanity cause people to screw something up, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional shortcomings. So, my robot would have:

1. A 1000 horsepower, solar powered engine.
2. A brain with a direct connection to Google.
3. The ability to play any and every instrument, and to sing on key and switch to that cool autotune sound.
4. No feelings, just encouraging words programmed into it, including the capability for light, comforting taps on the shoulder.

Of course, many things could go wrong with Robot Richard. For one, it could use too much strength in one of those comforting taps, shattering collarbones instead of mending hearts. Also, the Google brain, with that strength and no emotional constraints, could very likely take over the world.

Then again, perhaps Robot Richard wouldn't be a bad dictator.

Now, perhaps instead of wishing I had a Robot Richard, I should instead get closer to God, and enjoy all of the amazing emotions that come with friendship and relationship and romance and accomplishment. Perhaps I should embrace the opportunity to comfort people with my own hands and lead people in worship with my own voice. Maybe God's given me these privileges for a reason...

But I still think Robot Richard would be awesome.

Indie Bliss is Sufjan Stevens

There is something positively magical about great indie music. It feels organic, unadultered by the hit makers and unencumbered by contracts and expectations. Now, I know this isn't always true, that Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty label is probably just as much a slave to their eclectic image as other labels are to their bread and butter, but still... the beauty of a great song by a great songwriter with a band of friends is something to behold.

I love how music can put the soul at ease one minute, and push a restless spirit to action the next. Third Format tonight was awesome, and the songs were amazing examples of driving, inspiring music. That has it's time and place.

But for now... take a rest with me, and enjoy some of Sufjan Stevens' best work.









Love Who I Love

Do you have those friends who treat their dogs like people?

I've noticed something pretty interesting over the past few weeks. Friends of mine have had pictures of their pets in different situations on facebook, and people have responded directly to the pets. Now, the first think I think when I see something like this is something along the lines of DOGS CAN'T READ!!!

Except, perhaps, for Border Collies. I hear they are smarter than two year olds.

But I started thinking about what those people were thinking. And when you starting thinking about what people are thinking, it gets you thinking that maybe your thinking isn't so, well, thoughtful.

When you love something, the best thing a friend can do is express a supportive love toward that something. That supportive love is one that doesn't compete with, but compliments, the original love. This applies to everything from pets and favorite bands, to family and romantic relationships. I love my sister, and when my friends and family are looking out for her while I am 2 states away, I feel loved. I love my girlfriend, and when someone does something to make her happy, it makes me happy. But I had to learn that there is a difference between complimentary and competing affections, especially in my romantic relationship. Jealousy comes from not understanding that difference, and I am having to mature out of being the jealous type. When there is that complimentary love, and when I recognize it as such, the person expressing that love becomes a friend of mine, even if I've never met them, because they've loved who I love.

I think this is what God asks us to do with other people. If we love God, and God loves people, we should also love people. However, we shouldn't love them with a selfish love that competes with God for their affections. I mean, how silly would it be for us to try and get someone else's dog to like us instead of it's owner? The love we have for people should be one that compliments and supports the love God has for them, one that points them to the original love.

So this is why we treat our friend's pets and children so well. We love who they love, because we love them.

When you love who I love, you love me.

When you love who God loves... you get the picture.

Web Presence

I spent the morning working on my "web presence" (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger). I have been influenced by Seth Godin's Blog for a while now, having been shown it when I first arrived at Central. The more and more I read his work, the more I feel I need to do more on the web.

So here is my question to everyone who still reads this on blogger or in my notes... what would you suggest I should do to have more of a "web presence"? Does the word "web presence" remind you of a ghost spider? Does the picture I used really creep you out?

By the way, that picture is an actual ghost spider. Did you know they existed? I didn't.

I Grew Up On The Street! (Nostalgia Alert!)

The Sesame Street, that is!

One of my responsibilities in Third Format is to find the "Random Clip of the Month" and post it on the blog. In my searching for the best of the best, some videos make me quite happy, but don't quite make the cut. It made me incredibly happy to see these clips, with talented and relevant musicians and actors teaching kids how to count and spell. Since you won't be seeing them on the Third Format blog anytime soon, I thought I'd show them to you here :). I grew up watching Sesame Street, and I'm not ashamed to say it still fills me with the warm fuzzies whenever I see it!










Show me what I'm looking for.

My favorite children's books is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It is a simple, sad, beautiful story about a tree who loved a little boy. The tree was always happy giving the little boy what he wanted, but sad when the little boy went away. The boy (who grows up throughout the story) is always looking for something else from the tree... money, shelter, escape, rest. Ultimately, the tree is happy when the boy (who is now an old man) finds rest sitting on what is now... a stump.

I wonder if sometimes we treat God like that tree.

I've noticed that, as I've grown up, I've wanted different things from God. When I first became a Christian it was simply a pleasure to feel God near, to worship Him and do whatever I could to serve. I just wanted to spend my entire life bringing a smile to His face, and didn't think about many other things.

It seems that as we "grow up", we begin to believe that we can live our life on our own, or perhaps simply get by with a little help from God. We ask Him for a job, or a car, or some money or love or stability. We ask Him, and when He helps us we may or may not thank Him as we run off to our important, busy lives. We look for satisfaction in the things He can give, when the only true satisfaction lies in the giver.

I imagine how the boy in the story could have enjoyed the company and advice of the tree when he was looking to make his living. I wonder how much the tree would have loved to hear about the pretty girl he met the other day, or the awesome boating adventures he had that past week. I wonder how much love the boy was missing out on... if maybe he could have found rest and peace a lot sooner.

Now, in writing this, I was at first tempted to chastise the belittling of God in such a way, wondering how I could possibly think of the Omnipotent Creator as a humble friend and provider longing for our company. Instead, I am amazed at the beauty of His humility. Philippians 2 says that Christ did indeed humble himself in that way, loving us enough to long for our company. This fills my heart with regret, at all of the times I've put Him off and let Him down.

When my girlfriend wants to spend time with me, it is one of the most amazing feelings. I feel so loved when she tells me she misses me, when she expressed her desire to see me and tries to find some way to spend time with me despite our busy schedules. To think that God humbles himself to this kind of love for us is... unimaginable. amazing. beautiful.

So maybe I shouldn't treat God like the boy treated the tree. Maybe instead of telling God what I want and asking Him how He can help my purposes, I can just be happy to be with Him. Maybe I can let Him show me what I'm looking for.

Will You be in the air tonight?

Sometimes it feels like God is far away.

It almost feels wrong to say that, since I work for a church and am a worship leader, but above all of that I am a follower of Christ and a believer in honesty. All of that to say, sometimes I feel like I am reaching and reaching and grabbing nothing but air.

Even with this blog post, I felt like I should write something, but all I could think of is this one thing...

God is in the air.

As I stared at the majesty of His pyrotechnics lighting up the sky, through my smudged windshield, I felt something... but I just couldn't put it to words. I tried, but it felt like I was just grasping at air, trying to find something to hold on to. All I could think of, the only words that came out, were those five words...

God is in the air.

I think we worry a lot. We worry when we don't have the right words or the right response. We worry that we won't make our point, that we will be responsible for the results of our negligence as we lose the struggle to stay focused, as we stare off into the distance, into the... air.

God is in the air.

We look, and we seek, and we search, and these are all different words for the same thing, but we try all three anyway. Even now, in trying to make this point that is only now becoming coherent in my mind, I feel like I should be finding the perfect picture to draw your attention to...

To what? There is no place where God is not. There is no dark corner hidden from Him, not even in our hearts or minds. Where am I going to draw your attention, as if I knew a place with more God than another place? I can draw you to pictures of what He's done, but that pales in comparison to WHO HE IS... and who He is can't simply be pointed at, in some concrete location like the QuikTrip a few blocks down

I am just coming to this realization, that it is my job to lead you into the presence of A GOD WHO IS EVERYWHERE. It isn't a matter of location, but cognition. With minds set on Christ, we become cognizant of God's omnipresent nature, and we stop looking for Him, and start worshipping Him where we stand.

Because God is in the air.

I'm not sure what that means yet, but I like it.

Insecurities (One Year)

It is amazing how our insecurities can make us feel so small and useless. They only need the slightest basis of truth, the smallest spark to be ignited. It feels like lately my life has been filled with sparks.

I try to look at the bright side, to say that this is merely a case of God's divine humiliation. Maybe I had a big head, or maybe I just needed to be humbled in order to understand people around me. I do believe that God has a purpose behind this position He has placed me in, directly on the bottom of the totem pole.

It's just that in everything I am going through right now, whether it be mundane or amazing, I am constantly being faced with these insecurities, whose existences were merely speculations a year ago.


It's hard to believe it's been over a year since I made that 8 hour drive up to Dallas, determined not to get stuck back in South Texas and my comfort zone. I asked for this, you know... the discomfort, the growth, the trial by fire. I asked for all of it, and I can't forget that.

Still, that is beside the point. The point is that these insecurities can shape our actions, and if we aren't careful, they can shape us. We need to get rid of them, to be secure in something. We can take our own steps and measures to deal with our junk from the past, and I commend anyone who does so, but ultimate security lies in Christ. These insecurities, just like every other messed up thing in our lives, are meant to draw us closer to Christ. They are a reminder of our reliance on, and need for, something bigger than ourselves.

See, I know all of this, but I still occasionally let these insecurities determine my actions.

"I want to do what is good, but I don’t.
I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway."
-Paul (Romans 7:19)

Ghosts

I am a grown man, 25 years old, doing what I love for a living.

Yet the ghosts of my past still haunt me. The insecurities, the experiences that I wish I could forget...

They are like those relatives you like the least. They seem to be the ones who visit the most, stay the longest, and eat all of the good cereal.

For me, it is this feeling of being unwanted.

I'm being vulnerable on this rather public forum, but in a vague way, so that you can relate to what I am feeling without being creeped out or concerned by annoyingly personal details. Suffice it to say that there are many reasons for me to feel unwanted, many events in my life that have taken years of healing to overcome.

However, the feeling I get the most lately, the ghost that seems to be around every corner, finds it's origins on the playground. Lately, I've felt like the "last one picked" in a playground game of football, the one that no one really wants on their team.

I was always better than the other kids picked among the last, so I tended to do well because of the awkward people assigned to me, whatever the game was. I took pleasure in showing the other team what they were missing, but in my heart I just wished they would have picked me sooner.

It's funny, because here I am 15 years later, and I am still sensitive when I feel the sting of being the odd man out. I still find that those old insecurities want to paint my world in shades of grey, and those old ghosts try to convince me that nothing has really changed, and that I am still not good enough to be...

Well, insert whatever applies to you, because the point is this... the ghosts aren't real.

I used to be scared of ghosts. I used to see something wicked in every darkness, and something sinister in the unseen. It took a long time (in fact, about 12 years) for me to realize that there was no ghost in the other room, and nothing wicked in the darkness.

Just the same, today I find myself needing to learn that I am far from the last one picked. Today I find myself realizing I am in a place few others have the opportunity to see. Today I see that God chose me, and not just because there was no one left. Today I see that I am very rarely the last one picked, that I am surrounded by friends and love beyond my best expectations.

But every once in a while, I will be the last one picked. It's alright though...

... it's just motivation.

Replenishment (Texas Versus Arizona)

I've almost forgotten what crops look like, being out here in Arizona. Except for the orange trees blooming a few months back, I haven't seen any agriculture, or very much natural plant life for that matter. I was excited to see the pines around Flagstaff last month, but even then I was disappointed to learn that there was very little grass beneath those pines. I have this desire to run through a naturally grassy field, to see cotton and corn growing in vast rows, with plant life all around and random woodland animals milling about. I miss torrential downpours that seem to last for three days straight (although I don't miss the ensuing mosquito attacks).

This past week, Central hosted a satellite campus of The Leadership Summit on the Mesa campus. One of the speakers, I think it was Bill Hybels, talked about replenishment, and the need for a replenishment plan in a church leader's life. That word, "replenish," brought to mind the way that the land responded in South Texas, after a downpour released the area from a drought. There was so much natural growth, so much life, after those rains. Everything was green, and growth turned to overgrowth as the plant life held little regard for man's preferred topography.

Here in the East Valley of Arizona, there is so little growth because there is so little rain. That which does grow is controlled, nurtured, and usually doesn't look natural at all. There is no wildness to the trees or the grass you see. Everything that you see was planned, and lately I don't like that very much.

I think of this difference, between natural and unnatural growth, and I wonder if we are more like Arizona than Texas sometimes. I wonder if we aren't getting our replenishment from God; if we are far from where His rains are, and yet determined to make it work anyway. If we are lucky, we get what we planned, and nothing more. If not, we get less, or nothing at all. Either way, our souls are barren desert masquerading as an oasis. There is no wild and untamable nature in our spirits, just predictable and safe unnatural growth.

I want to be like Texas; to have my droughts, but always be just a flash flood away from life in abundance.

New Videos From Last Weekend

This is me with the Third Format band, from August 1st and 2nd. I hope you enjoy the videos.



Break Me Down by Christian City Church of Oxford Falls (C3)



You Are My Joy by David Crowder Band



Marvelous Light by Charlie Hall, with One Way by Hillsong United at the end.

Where is God?


"Sometimes You're further than the moon. Sometimes You're closer than my skin." -Martin Smith


I have often heard people talk about "falling away" from God, or "backsliding" away from the life they once led. I think these nice words, these gentle words, belie the true nature of what we are doing.

God is Love. What is more, He is IN LOVE with us. He created sunsets and starry nights as a love letter to us.

We rejected His love, and got ourselves into a huge mess that we couldn't get out of. We were doomed to die, pitifully and hopelessly. He sent His Son; indeed, His very self in flesh and blood. He loved and healed, and He showed us what love and healing truly were. He gave His life so that we might be freed, us who were covered in this world's filth, dirty and despised. He died to make us His own, and His love makes us beautiful.

Yet, even today, we reject that Love, instead settling for the scraps this world offers us. We tell Him that He isn't enough, and we leave Him brokenhearted as we turn our back on Him yet again. This GOD, creator of the universe, has humbled himself to relationship with us, His most beloved creation... and we have used it to hurt Him. We have hurt and betrayed the only perfect love we will ever know.

It should break your heart. I know it broke mine, once I realized just how far I had "fallen away" from... ignored... betrayed... and utterly disregared this Perfect Love personified.

It should do more, however, than simply break your heart. I know that when I realize that I've hurt someone I love, the first thing I want to do is make it right. I try as hard as I can, right then, to fix it, and I continue to try and repair that which I've broken. Once we realize what we have done, we should "repent"... turn from what we've been doing, and do all that we can to return to our Perfect Love.

What is amazing, though, is this one other fallacy in the wording of "falling away". See, we never actually fall "away", because God is always right there to pick us up again. We don't have to wait until His feelings are under control, or until He can look at us again, because His love is more perfect than ours will ever be. Right now, as you feel far from Him, He is simply waiting for you to turn around, to come back to His love.

This is the Gospel. This is the Good News, a Love that is stronger than our imperfections, more resilient than our rebellious hearts.

"My love for You
My heart for You
My life for You
All I am for You"
-David Crowder

I know many people who are afraid to say this, to give Him everything. This is sadly ironic, since "perfect love casts away fear"...

... and He is our Perfect Love.

Richard Leading Worship - Videos

I am placing this on my blog for two purposes. First, this is for all of those who have ever wondered what kind of music we do at my church. Second, this is where I will refer those who are looking for a worship leader and wanting to see me on video. Enjoy them, because I sure enjoyed making them! The audio isn't perfect, but it's better than anything I've had before.



These two songs are originally by Hillsong United. The Time Has Come has been one of my favorites to lead over the past few years, for youth and collegiate groups, both with my band back in Texas and here in Third Format. I'm Not Ashamed is a song I was introduced to here in Arizona, and I have grown to love it as well.



God Is Alive is a new song by Steve Fee. We learned the song off of a YouTube video, so I'm not sure this is the exact way it is going to be recorded by Fee. I love the words and the energy of this song, and singing this truth out, that God is alive and worthy of being glorified.



This last one is Running With Your Heart by Charlie Hall, and it is a bit different. We had an acoustic set, and I used a 12-string acoustic guitar and had Vik playing djembe. This song is one that many found hard to follow, so this was one of the only times we used it. I still think it's pretty amazing, and would love to try it again sometime.

Thanks for watching! I will update this post with new songs as I am able to convert them.

Anansi


I’d like to think that my heart is for people in the gutter, but I have just been reminded of a time when I was completely oblivious to a gutter around me. I’ve told the story of my friend Anansi, my former next door neighbor who ended up killing his mother, at least a hundred times. Today, after getting a few things done and before starting on my review of The Gutter, I looked at a blog I follow called The Church of No People and responded to a question asking what the stupidest thing I’d ever done was. I began to tell the story of Anansi, and how he had left me high and dry in Sugarland, a suburb of Houston.

I had given him a ride home from our college, about five hours away. He had promised me gas money, which he had shown me the night before. Like the stupid freshman kid that I was, I took off with very little money, without telling anyone where I went, just to prove that I could make a long trip and to do something for my friend. When we got to Sugarland, Anansi didn’t know the way to his house, and when we stopped to fill my car up, he only had 6 dollars for me, because apparently he “had fun” the night before. He promised me money when we got to his house, but it took us about an hour to find it. When we finally did, there was an eviction notice on the door and the locks were changed. I left him there with his clothes under the awning of the house, angry and worrying about how I was going to get home.

The story of how I got home is one for another time and place. Anansi was found walking down the street on December 29th, with blood on his shirt and a bloody knife in his hand, and when confronted by police he immediately confessed to murdering his mother. I got the news that night, as my friend Marvin called me and told me to turn on the news, just in time to see the house I’d dropped Anansi off at, and a picture of his mother before she was slain. I considered this the end of the story for a long time, and after a while I treated it as my trump card story in any conversational situation, saved for the special occasions but shared countless times nonetheless.

I was in the process of telling this story in a comment on The Church of No People when I went searching for the story from the newspaper in 2002, the one with Anansi’s mug shot. Instead I found this story from 2008, catching up with him and his high school coach, and telling his story. Anansi had a life I couldn’t imagine, a life I had never asked about. We knew him, talked to him every day and hung out with him constantly, and yet we didn’t know that he spent two and a half years alone in an apartment that his mother and stepdad paid for, after he got out of Juvenile Detention. He told me, on the way to the place I dropped him off at (which apparently was never his home), that his mother didn’t want him, that he was going there because he thought he should, not because anyone particularly missed him. He told me about his religious meanderings and what his parents believed. He told me about not seeing his dad, about the relatives…

He told me so much of this, and all I remembered was the part about him leaving me nearly stranded, and the part about him killing his mother. I never tried to keep up with him, and never tried to stand up for him when his name was dragged through the mud, especially because most of the time it was me doing the dragging.

We need to be about loving the Anansi’s of this world. I don't know what to do right now... I think one way I can apply this to my life is to reconnect with this young man, though I don’t have the first clue as to how. I am going to email the writer of the article. I think also that I can listen to those around me, because there are those in my life right now that are hard to listen to, hard to want to be with, who need someone to shine a light into their darkness. I don’t know who the next Anansi will be in my life, or how long I will have with him before it’s too late.

*Picture is from this article by Ken Sherrington

Lead Servant

My grandpa, before he retired, was a foreman for a rancher in South Texas. He was the head ranch hand, the #2 guy for a man named Stanley. He worked hard, and was trusted so much that for years after his retirement, Stanley would ask him to come back and run a combine for the harvest.

After retiring, he has kept busy, working with his hands to help his family, both earthly and spiritual. He did a lot of work getting a house ready for my mom and stepdad to move in to (if only the stepdad's character had been half as solid as my grandfather's handiwork), and I am always hearing about something he is working on. He is 72 and can still work harder and smarter than men half his age.

That trusted man, that lead servant... I don't know that they are ever truly recognized for their importance and their contributions. There is an old saying, that "it's hard to find good help." This is a common saying because it is true. Whatever we do, we do it for ourselves, trying to get the money we need, or the recognition or the accolades to quench our ever-thirsting egos. Too often we work just hard enough to get by, to be average, or perhaps just a little bit above average. It is almost always less than we are capable of, and then we wonder why we can't find a job more fulfilling?

This applies to our spiritual lives as well... trying to find that line that we shouldn't cross, some taboo that we want to inch ever closer to without ever broaching. We do enough to feel like a "normal" christian, like an "average" kind of guy or an "above average" type of girl. The only problem is, we were made, each of us, for the extraordinary. Our self-doubts and fears constantly try to silence our spirits, but still we hear them faintly calling out for more life, more effort, more fulfillment... life, to the full.

What would happen if all of our restlessness turned into action? What if our boredom produced movement? What if we got up from our "average" lives and reached for the extraordinary, despite the limits that our doubts and fears insist we adhere to?

What could God do with an army of lead servants, of trusted men and women who could storm the gates of hell with super-soakers full of love and peace and grace and truth, the WMD's of the spiritual realm?

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... It is the Lord Christ you are serving" -Colossians 3:23-24

It starts with integrity, and it starts with each individual act from this point on. Whatever you are doing... with all of your heart. That is what being a lead servant is all about. If you strive to be a leader for Christ, this is especially important. We are not called to simply lead, as those in the world are. The leaders that the world looks up to answer to no one. We, as Christians, are called to constantly remember that we are accountable to another, that what we work with and nurture is not ours to boast in. We must constantly remember that it is Christ who is the leader, and no matter how many people are below us, it is always our duty to serve.

The lead servant is one who has a leader's ability and a servant's heart.
The lead servant is the one who can be trusted to know both what he's doing, and who he's doing it for.
The best leader is the lead servant.

Escapism- San Diego @ Night

All of our plans were falling through.

We were supposed to hang out. I was off the next day, and she didn't have to work until 10. Everything we tried to plan just wasn't working. In humorous frustration, she texted me:

What if we drove to Cali tonight to play in the ocean and then came back?

It had been a long few weeks, and I'd been wanting to do something completely random for a while. Usually I would want to know all of the details before agreeing to something like this, but not this time. I texted back:

I'm down.

We stopped and got an audiobook by David Sedaris to listen to (not my choice, but funny in a "wow, that's wrong" kind of way) while driving on I-8 headed toward Yuma. There are very few radio stations between Phoenix and Yuma. We were headed to San Diego, on account of Los Angeles having no soul.

It was a beautiful drive once we got past El Centro. It was my first time in California, and winding through the big hills silhouetted against the light of the moonlit sky was a bit thrilling. I needed to get away. We needed to get away.

I think we all need to get away sometimes. Life gets more and more complicated and intricate as we get older, mostly because we suck at life and tend to make it that way. We get caught in a rut, and we need a fresh perspective, and so we go for a walk, or a run, or a ride, or a drive... something to take us away from the mundane, from the same old thing. It's called "Escapism", the wanting to get away from it all, to put distance between yourself and whatever it is that weighs you down.

As we get older, I think we convince ourselves that escaping is impractical. Heck, I didn't think I had that random trip in me anymore. But driving into San Diego under the cover of darkness, putting feet to the ocean and listening to the sheer massive power of it's waves, is cathartic to the soul. Really, the beauty of any new place is usually enough to bring our problems into perspective.

Escapism is healthy, as long as it ends. We were back in Mesa by 730 the next morning, with the same old struggles not looking quite as big as they once did. I had a feeling that everything would be alright. Then I crashed on my girlfriend's family couch.

Here's wishing you a Great Escape, a San Diego of your very own.

Coffee is the Center of the Universe

Coffee is amazing. I'm pretty sure that no longer experience drowsiness, simply withdrawl symptoms. I am also pretty sure that God placed coffee on this earth to make me awesome. Before my first two cups of the nazarene narcotic, I am usually quite useless. I mean, sure, maybe most people running on consecutive days of less-than-ideal sleep would be just as sluggish, but in today's fast paced world, I need a quick fix more than a blissful 9 hours of slumber.

I even have a special press that I make my coffee in. I actually asked for it for Christmas, since I would only be able to take one thing back with me from Texas to Arizona on the plane. I am pretty much known as the fancy coffee guy in our church offices (it's like a normal office building, with about 40 people around at any given time, so that's saying something). I offer my caffienated goodness to all who ask, because of course I have extra... grounds, that is. As in, I could make more. I wouldn't dream of not having my full 32 ounces of hardcore jittery bliss.

I've been making better music since I succumbed to the bean. I don't drink it when I have to sing, but at all other times... my fingers fly across the fretboard or keyboard, as my mind pushes forward confidently whether I know what I'm doing or not.

Good music doesn't depend on perfection. It depends on confidence. Unless you suck.

Anyway, I am officially declaring Coffee the "Center of the Universe". On the first day, God created the heavens and the earth...
but first, He had His coffee.

Ever The Critic


I've learned a lot in these past two years about many facets of musical performance and worship leading. I am totally stoked that I am becoming better at what I love. I just wish I wasn't such a jerk because of it.

See, lately I've found myself being a critic of everything musical. I've been taught to analyze myself and find my own weaknesses, but instead I've been finding fault in others. In fact, criticism is inherent in the music culture, and it is often quite useful. It just makes it really hard to be a fan of local music, to be a supportive and attentive listener.

Instead I am listening to a running dialogue in my head, outlining everything wrong with this band/concert/church service. I outwardly cringe when harmonies don't quite work and singers get pitchy. I comment on how this band would be good "if only..."

I've become that really annoying person, the one you hate to listen to music with or see a show with. It sucks, because I even annoy myself.

This is why I've decided to turn back the clock, to learn once again to enjoy the pure simple bliss of a live local show. I must find some way to turn off my inner critic, make myself a little tone deaf, a little more forgiving... and just enjoy good music again, even when it gets a little pitchy and the mix isn't just right.

Resolved: To stop annoying myself at concerts.

Belonging

When I first got to Arizona, I realized how much I had been surrounded by friends, all throughout Texas. Even in Dallas, there were friends to hang out with and do things with, but my first month in Arizona seemed to drag on endlessly. I found myself sitting alone at a bar eating pizza and watching a football game, wishing desperately that the bunch of black athletes behind me were my friends, that I could crack a joke and make them laugh, or say something about one of them and have everyone join in on the playful diss. I wanted to be cool again, because in all honesty I felt like a big dork.

Fast forward to tonight. I promised two friends that I would be at their birthday party, and I went. I didn't know anyone else there, and this wasn't one of those groups you could easily socialize with. They were closed, and their conversations were inwardly directed. I felt like a complete outsider, to the point that I left after about an hour, having made an extended appearance while still having an excuse to leave.

I went from there to the home of a dear friend, hanging out with people who have become close and important to me. I made silly jokes and everyone laughed. I was made fun of, and I poked right back. We had a great time, and I felt like I belonged. I thank God for that, because I realize how much that means.

At the end of this year, my residency ends, and most likely I will be in a new place, looking for a new group of friends. I most likely will find myself eating alone, or driving the streets alone, or doing something else rather lonely. Friends will call and say they miss me, but they will feel so far away, and I'll just be more lonely. But there are always people who are willing to become your new family, if you'd just take the steps towards them.

Treasure the places that you belong. Invite people in, because there is always someone feeling like an outsider around you, one person who needs to be included... and they might just be really really fun :).

Forever (God > Me)

I am tired today. God is never tired.
I went to sleep late. God never sleeps.
I painted some wood black. God painted the entire world and created ever color.
God also created trees.
I was born in 1983. God has existed forever.
I am six feet tall. God is infinite.
I play music. God created ears.
I listen to music. God created EARS.
I like my ears.
I hate waking up early. God NEVER sleeps.
I will die someday. God will exist forever.

I know God. I will be with him forever, because of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between me and forever.

Forever is so large, so hard to fathom. To think that His hand is in every aspect of everything we see, hear, feel, do, touch, smell, love, hate...

He PERMEATES our existence. He is OMNIPRESENT and we are where we are, most likely in front of a computer, slightly bored even while reading the greatest truths in the universe.

It's a lot to take in.

Crazy

I want to be one of those crazy spiritual people. I want to be one of those people who sees God and feels God in every moment, in every breezy afternoon or painted desert twilight. I want to be one of those people who seems completely and totally different than everyone else in the room, one of those that makes people both uncomfortable and completely captivated by their "otherness" and peace.

I want to be the one who must have something wrong with him, because he just doesn't care about what people are supposed to care about. I want to be one of those people who doesn't care about dressing cool, one of those people comfortable in their own skin. I want to be one of those people who can stick to their convictions without wavering, even when everyone else is sure they are being too (legalistic, liberal, impractical, idealistic).

I want to be one of those crazy people. I want my actions to incite reactions, to live a provocative righteousness that puts hands and feet to words and melodies. I want to keep on singing, but I want to live those words out as soon as I get off the stage. I want to be one of those people that intimidates and inspires through a relentless and world-changing love that can only come from the Father.

I want to be so in love with Jesus that he becomes my identity, that I find my worth in Him. I want to live with a crazy, passionate love. I am tired of excuses and obligations that mean so very little in the grand scheme of things. I am tired of having a weak and ineffective love. I want to love everyone with a new kind of love, from a heart constantly in awe of the Creator and of His Creation. I want to climb a mountain and write a lyric, to ride the currents of a river and be inspired to music or prose. I want to live all out, and stop getting in my own way.

I want to experience a crazy love, a love that inspires me to act in ways that looks completely and utterly crazy to someone who hasn't experienced the same sort of love... because ultimately, that love is what people are looking for, and that love is the love that will change the world. It is a crazy love, and it is the love of the Father, given to us and shown though us.